Pros: Reliable, snappy handling
Cons: NVH, lack of hp, no safety features
We sold this car last year, with 235,000 clicks! It was a little sad watching it being driven away for the last time.
--- Review --
A few months ago my 1984 Honda Accord failed inspection due to necessary maintenance that nobody wanted to pay for. Because my brother loves me, his wife forced him to give me his 1987 Acura Integra LS, rather than donate it to a less deserving organization. Whoever said "charity begins at home", and I believe I did, was right on the money.(Ironically, the Integra required the same repairs. Grr.) You probably know that Acura is Honda's upscale marque, and 1987 may or may not have been their first year in the US.
I wanted this car because 1) it was free and 2) it's a five-speed and it was an opportunity to learn to drive a stick shift without ruining the transmission on a new car. As it turns out, I like rowing through the gears myself even though I find driving 20th century cars completely overrated. But as I'm saving for a MY2002 Subaru, this situation worked out well for me.
I discovered some specs on the 1988 Integra, which should be the same as the 1987. The powerplant is a tiny 1.6L 118-hp DOHC I4 with 103 lb-ft of torque. (Eeeshk! That's less ponies than today's top of the line Civic.) Mileage has averaged around 27 mpg (and rising), and I'm expecting fuel economy to increase when the weather gets warmer. I've tried different grades of gas without improvement. My brother advised me to use regular fuel (requires 86 octane) in the winter and upgrade in the summer, since the engine runs hotter.
The LS was the bottom of the line Integra. The interior is strictly plain-jane: plastic and velour but nicely put together so it doesn't look cheap. The controls are intuitive, and by controls I'm referring to the HVAC, rear defroster, cruise control, hazards, light dimmer and headlight motor. That's it for buttons to push; the windows and locks are manually operated. Even if the speakers weren't blown, I don't think the stereo would be anything to write an epinion about. Forget about cupholders. The velour seats lost their spring a long time ago but they're not uncomfortable. I have enough room up front, and my 6'3"
brother must have also, although the tilt steering wheel does not move up very much. I'm 5'6" and I have to rearrange my legs around that steering wheel every time I climb in. I even have a sunroof, which you can either push up to open or remove entirely. The rear seats are tight, what you'd expect to find in the back of a small coupe. My overall attitude toward these drawbacks: I can live with them. None of these inconveniences get in the way of the enjoyable driving experience.
In 1987 this car looked pretty sharp. Today, not so much. The body is still in admirable shape, except for dings, a spot or two of rust, the rubber seals around the windows are disintegrating, and the clearcoat has started to peel around the doors. The driver sits low, so some are going to have difficulty with entry and egress. I still get a kick from flipping up the headlights, (when they don't freeze up in winter) thought the beams are not bright enough.
On the Road
Because the car is so light (under 2300 lbs.) and it's mated with a manual transmission, acceleration from 0 mph is much better than my pokey automatic 1.8L 4-cyl Accord. (My brother also test drove the automatic LS and said it was a slug.) The gears are spaced close together so the engine revs high (I think this is typical of Hondas). In 5th gear, at 65mph I'm up to 3500 rpms, or even a notch higher. On the highway, NVH (noise, vibration, harshness) usually keeps me at 65-70 mph. Engine buzzing, wind whistling, interior squeaking, it's enough to make me want to swerve into oncoming traffic. (I often check that the windows are truly closed because the wind noise is so pronounced.) At least one benefit of the high revs is that I don't normally have to downshift to pass. Most people have told me the car can handle anything under redline (7000 rpms) but I feel better keeping the tach under 4000 rpms. So I would have to agree that this car is somewhat, but not terribly, underpowered for me and obviously any 6-cyl is going to blow my doors off. (Put on the A/C and it's a different story. What a dog!)
The steering feels OK, if a little loosened up from age. From what I have read the steering and suspension in the new RSX are practically flawless, so obviously Acura has made a lot of improvements since 1986. I've heard others say Integras handle like go-karts, and I have to agree. This is what makes the car somewhat fun to drive, and those of you who prefer to "drive a slow car fast" know what I am talking about. Body lean is not too bad in the twisties, unless you're breaking the speed limit. Taking turns at higher speeds, although the tires stay on track, the car's body wobbles. Not a pleasant sensation, although I'm sure something aftermarket can fix this. Bottom line, this is an old car, and unrefined by today's standards. My new Subaru Impreza Outback is more of a pleasure to drive. (See my review of the 2002 OBS if you're interested.)
She also rides as rough as a go-kart. I like feeling connected to the road, but I get jostled traveling over the merest discrepancy in road texture, i.e. sand molecules. Visibility is excellent, except from the rear. The hatchback slopes at a 45 degree angle which leaves a small rear view. A VW Golf hatchback design is more versatile. I didn't think I had that much trunk space, but I've heard someone toted home a bed. A very small bed? The rear seats fold down.
Shifting this baby is none too exciting. The throws are long and vague. Again, today's Hondas are always praised for their shifting action; seemingly the best in its class. A lot must have changed since this car was introduced.
I tested out the cruise control recently to mixed results. Quite a few times it surged forward while I was trying to decelerate. I guess it takes some getting used to, but cruise always makes me feel like there's someone else driving the car with me.
This car predates ABS, traction control and air bags so really it has no safety features to speak of. The brakes stop the car competently (4-wheel discs). The bad thing about a car this light is that the wind tosses it all over the road. And there won't be much left of either of us if I'm ever in an accident. Let's just say I'm always on alert. Eating, drinking or sleeping is verboten.
But as long as this baby runs I'll leave the sexy German cars to those who can afford them. In fact, I think this is a good first vehicle (well, except for it not being safe) because it's cheap to maintain, easy and fun to drive yet it's not fast. Actually, all the Hondas in our family have served us well.
Note: since I've owned her she's been in the shop only for supposedly normal wear and tear items at 210K miles (tires/tune-up/struts/bushing).